ICPCN launches funding campaign to address unnecessary pain and suffering in children

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Today, Tuesday 9 July, the ICPCN has launched a new Global Giving campaign Promoting Paediatric Pain Management focused on increasing awareness and education on assessment and management of children’s pain.     

We know that more than 21 million children in the world today live with a life-threatening or life-limiting illness or condition, most of which will result in the child experiencing unpleasant symptoms, including pain. Allowing anyone to experience unrelieved acute or chronic pain and suffering when the means exist to provide partial or complete relief is arguably one of the greatest violations of human rights. Even more distressing for us is knowing that millions of children needlessly suffer pain due to ignorance and lack of appropriate training and education.

Speaking of the urgent need and value of this campaign, Prof Julia Downing, Chief Executive of ICPCN says:

“No child should suffer pain that can be controlled. Children around the world are experiencing pain due to a variety of causes including a lack of education, and a lack of skills to assess and manage pain. ICPCN is committed to the ongoing training and support of individuals working globally in palliative care to manage such pain and suffering. The use of our Pain App and elearning programmes is just one way that we are working together to overcome some of the challenges to children globally receiving appropriate and adequate pain relief.”

Why focus on pain assessment and management?

A recent blog written for ICPCN by Sophie Kieffer, an aid worker in Africa with a passion for children’s palliative care, documents how even within hospitals where pain medication is available, children are cruelly left to suffer excruciating pain. She writes:

This was my first time visiting the burn ward at a large hospital in Kenya. As I entered the room, I was overcome by the piercing sounds of crying children. From my babysitting days, I am used to two-year-old tantrums and playground mishaps. Here, however, sheer physical pain is the driving force behind the guttural cries.

I remember being in a paediatric cancer ward in Uganda and hearing a girl scream so loudly that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. I asked the nurse what was causing her distress and she said the cancer had gone to the child’s brain. In the bed next to her was a silent little girl, the tears already come and gone. In an attempt to make logical sense of this, I started to compare which was worse: the loud cries or the silent ones. And I realized it didn’t really matter.

This is not acceptable and we urgently need you to partner with us to do everything possible to end this cruelty.

Pain is one of the major reasons for children presenting at health care facilities. Despite much work being done to dispel them over the past few years, there are still several myths that persist around children and pain, such as the myth that a child’s behaviour always reflects the intensity of their pain, or that doctors are skilled at measuring pain in children.

With appropriate training, health care professionals can be taught to control severe pain and unpleasant symptoms in children. Both pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods can be used and with the right knowledge and expertise it is entirely possible to eliminate a child’s pain in most cases or, at the very least, to minimise it to a bearable level.

Pain assessment 
The first and vital step in good pain management is to accurately assess and measure the frequency, type and level of pain the child may be experiencing. This thorough assessment informs the medical professional on what treatment is needed.

The ICPCN has developed the digital ICPCN Pain Assessment Tool for Children downloadable for free onto any smart phone via the iStore or Google Play store. This app allows a child, with the help of an adult when necessary, keep an accurate record of where their pain is located, how intense it is, the type of pain and whether anything relieves the pain. This information can be passed on to the medical professionals to help in assessing the efficacy of pain control measures.

Pain management 
The ICPCN provides a free online e-learning module on pain assessment and pain management in children, available in 7 languages. This course, endorsed by the University of South Wales can be accessed at www.elearnicpcn.org 

The ICPCN also provides face-to-face training on children’s palliative care, which includes an intensive day-long training module on pain assessment and pain management. To date we have provided this face-to-face training to over 1,000 health care practitioners in 24 countries, mostly in the developing world.

How can you support our campaign?

This funding campaign aims to ramp up awareness and education on the need for proper assessment and expert management of children’s pain, encourage the downloading and use of the ICPCN Pain Assessment Tool for Children

There are 3 ways in which you can support this campaign:


Please consider a donation to the campaign. We hope to reach our target of $10,000 within a year so any once off or monthly amount, starting from just $10 will be gratefully received. We hope to find 100 people willing to commit to a donation of $10 a month for 10 months to reach our target even sooner. You can donate here.


Please download the ICPCN Pain Assessment Tool for Children and encourage your patients and the parents of your patients to download the app and use it. We believe that this app can improve pain assessment and management and it is a free resource that we offer.

Do the course 

If you haven’t already done so, consider taking the free e-learning certificate course on Pain Assessment and Management for Children. All our courses are endorsed by the University of South Wales and available in several languages, including French, Spanish and Portuguese.

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